American Airlines AAdvantage has been my favorite loyalty program for the relatively cheap award redemptions especially on international premium cabin flights. So naturally, it is upsetting to see changes to the program. However, the AAdvantage 2016 changes and award chart devaluation was inevitable since it was way cheaper than Delta and United. At the end of the day the changes are not THAT “terrible” except for a few first international first class awards.

american award changes

Here’s a quick summary of some of these changes:

Elite Qualifications in 2016

Currently, you had 3 ways to qualify for elite status. Either miles, points or segments. To make it simpler, American took away points and you will be able to qualify for elite status based on miles or segments.

It will be easier to earn EQMs when flying on American-marketed flights:

Cabin Class EQMs/mile
Full-fare First or Business 3
Discount First or Business 2
Full-fare Main Cabin 1.5
Discount Main Cabin 1

Below is the elite qualifying thresholds:

elite qualifying thresholds

These changes will make it relatively easier to qualify for elite status which might lead to an increase in number of elite travelers. And that might affect your chances for upgrades. Also, starting in 2017 The membership year for elite status will be valid through January 31 of the following year instead of February.

Elite Upgrades Changes:

Starting January 1, 2016, Executive Platinum members will receive 4 systemwide upgrades instead of 8 upon qualification or re-qualification, with the ability to earn up to 4 more (2 for every 50,000 EQMs earned above 100,000) for a total of 8 per year.

Starting March 1, 2016, Gold and Platinum members will earn four 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 (currently 10,000) EQMs earned during the membership year. Also, the price of 500-upgrades is increasing for $30 to $40.

Earning Miles in 2016:

In the second half of 2016, award miles for travel on American marketed flights will be calculated based on what you pay for your ticket (base fare plus carrier-imposed fees, excluding any government-imposed taxes and fees) and your elite status; the higher your status, the more you’ll earn.

AAdvantage Member Level Mile/USD
Member 5
Gold 7
Platinum 8
Executive Platinum 11


Redeeming AAdvantage Miles for American Airlines Flights:

american chart


Redeeming AAdvantage Miles for Partner Airlines:

american partner chart


Bottom Line:

A chart devaluation of any program is always upsetting but we need to realize that no program will remain as is forever. All programs go through changes over time as the industry changes and evolves. I still think American has one of the better charts compared to Delta and United in certain redemptions. And the good news is we have until March before these changes go into effect. If you have any award travel plans between now and early 2017 make sure you book them before March of 2016. It also helps that Citi is currently running a 50,000 AAdvantage Miles bonus on the Citi Platinum Select credit card. Also, American is giving the best bonus offer on purchased miles this year and it is available until November 20 2015.


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